Thursday, December 8, 2011

I have a dream...

Imagine if we could come up with a way to help developing regions grow in a more sustainable way, keeping their talent mass from fleeing out of the region they grew up in, at the first chance they get, without making the solution overly expensive - attracting all kinds of corruption and unnecessary administration.

We need to empower the people who care and have potential - using the mobile phones, tablets and computers already available in the regions we want to reach. Giving them the knowledge and ability to do more and reach even further with the tools already provided by manufacturers. It's almost as if companies are selling a fishing rod with a fish attached - but forget to tell anyone how to use the rod to catch more fish - in their own language (note: I am not looking down at these people - it's just not everyone who understands English on a high enough level to speed read highly technical documents, programming language reference manuals, etc.).

I would like to tell a story of how I see all this made possible and the potential it will give to these people.

Here goes...

I can do this!

A long time ago, when I was a kid, I was fortunate enough to have a dad, who created a big IT company, with offices around the globe. Often, I would go to work with him and he would place me in some persons office. This was probably very annoying to the guy who had to look after me, but what could he do - my dad being boss and all. At some point, there was this guy who was so tired of answering my silly questions, that he placed me in front of a computer, switched it on and handed me a C programmers manual. I was immediately hooked! All the things you could make the machine do by just writing a few lines of magic in a text editor - WOW!  After a few days of fun, I realized that I lacked inspiration for what I should do with all this newly gained magical power.

That's when I turned to the otherwise pretty boring exercises we were given in school. I could all of a sudden give them life - and COLOR! Soon I was creating software to do all kinds of stuff for both myself, for teachers and for others.

You can do it too!

Imagine that we can sprinkle just a little of that same magic on the young people in schools and high-schools around the globe...

That is why I want to present you with the "Mobile Education Kit", a project that seeks to - in a non-intrusive way - introduce high-school students to how they can use existing technology to solve everyday problems, starting with the already planned exercises in their school. This way, we will also give the teachers a chance to feel empowered to combine their own knowledge with a modern touch of mobile application development - delivering that to the students in a was that keeps them extra focused and interested.

The project is designed to be able to renew itself constantly through community interaction. A model that will, if done right, require very little energy and money from the first driving entity, compared to the huge potential and engagement we might get out of it.

Empowering developing regions

As a starting point, I have chosen to take a closer look at Latin America. This is partially because my wife is Mexican, making it a natural preference and giving me some insights I would otherwise not have, but also because Latin America in many areas have a great potential to do so much better than today - and this potential should be unlocked!

Currently, mobile phones are sold in HUGE numbers to the countries in this region of the world, but not many are making an effort to introducing the people in the very same regions properly to the wonders of using the products sold to them to create their own local, regional or even global solutions. Maybe there is a focus on some universities, but to be honest: When we reach these people, a lot of them have already seen the university as a ticket out of the region to the US or Europe. When they are still in high-school, there is a much closer bond to home and the region the students have grown up in - and THAT'S where we can make a huge difference. For example, if given the right tools and inspiration, there are bound to be projects created between high-schools and local businesses, helping them to grow and be more efficient.

The future not written in stone.. 

However, if some of you reading this think it's not such a bad idea, please drop me a comment.

Remember that this is not a quick win done with a bit of code and some help on the side, but with enough people and organisations behind it, it could become at least a part of the puzzle that needs to be solved in the developing regions.

Field work has already started in Mexico together with a group of high-schools and code and preliminary results will soon be up on github with much more specific information than in this post - look for a post on that in the near future.

To be continued... ;-)